It was long past midnight when she woke by his side on the foam mattress in that hot cramped apartment which always smelled of cats and Turkish coffee. Some blocks away a siren wailed and broke the stillness of the room and the sense of time suspended. Sore and exhausted, but happy, she leaned over him and ran the tip of her tongue over his exposed nipple. He lay on his back, half propped up by a feather pillow, profile sharp against the faint glow from the red neon proclaiming Smith Pawn and Fine Jewelry across the street.
Something in his response was not what she had been hoping for. She looked up at him curiously, and was troubled to see him clenching his jaw, as though in unbearable pain.
He pressed his face between her breasts and she found herself holding him as he broke, convulsing against her.
"I can't do it! I can't!"
"Do what?" She whispered.
"Give up. Give them what they want."
"I don't understand," she said, concerned, "Give up wh-"
"You. All of it. Help me...to refuse. Even though they're right! It's the only way."
"To refuse what?"
He didn't answer, but pressed his mouth to her skin, shoulders trembling. Her hands slipped through his dark hair, over his back, gently caressing, as she studied the ceiling of the room. She counted the water stains faintly visible in the darkness and she waited.
"It's right," he moaned "But so...oh god it's so hard to do!"
After a while he pulled away and sat up.
"Talk to me, please," she said.
"You aren't ready to hear it." The familiar rasping velvet of his speech relayed suffering, but it was a voice that obeyed him now.
"Let me help."
"You can't help."
"You said to help you refuse-"
"I can't refuse."
"Then let me share it with you."
He shook his head and looked down at her, as if weighing a question. Then he shook his head again, in answer to himself. "If I'm not sure I can stand it," he said, strangely tender, "then how can I ask you to?"
She was choking on her own fear for him. With effort, she said slowly, "Alex, please-"
"Sorry...I know I'm...will you just let it go? Just let it go and don't ask."
"That's all you can do for me. Will you?" She nodded numbly.
"This won't happen again, and someday I'll make it all up to you. We'll go to Saint Petersburg and I'll buy you furs the color of your hair and black-market jewels... and we'll sleep in a wedding cake house of pastel colors."
Some emptiness in his words broke her then, and she wept for them both and a future that seemed impossible without him. In the morning he faced her openly, not avoiding her anxious glances. She saw anguish and serenity in the calm of his features as he folded clothes into a battered gym bag.
"Will I see you again?"
"Next time we meet, you won't want to see me," he answered. "I'll have reasons for the things I do, but I won't be able to tell you. I can't ask you to take me on faith; you have to live by your own knowledge and judgement. You'll hate me, I think. You may be hurt...I can't say anymore, but remember that I told you this and it was all I could tell you."
He bent and kissed her softly.
"Watch your back," he whispered, green eyes shinning.
Once, in an airport, as her partner raced ahead of them, she had turned to him, their prisoner then, mouthing the word-"why?" But he had only shrugged and pushed past her.
She had survived it. She was able to survive the horror of it and everything that came after because she did not believe in suffering. She faced the ugly fact of pain with astonished indignation, and refused to let it matter. It did not count; it was not to be taken seriously. She believed this, even in the moments when there was nothing left within her but screaming. There were moments when she wished she could lose all faculty of consciousness so that it would stop telling her that what could not be true was true. She fought. She recovered. Years helped her to reach the day when she could face her pain and her memories indifferently, and then the day when she felt no necessity to face them at all.
What are a few hours of pain? A few years even? The blink of an eyelid on the face of God. A small price. Nothing. She will answer for her own guilt and deeds as well as his. Her life has come full circle. She has curled beside her partner in the hospital bed, watching him breathe evenly. Willing him to heal.
"Mulder," she whispers into his ear as he sleeps, "I made a bargain."
I think I'm finally getting the SHE-KNEW-HIM-PREXFILES!- thing out of my system. Never thought it was a strong theory - just fascinating as a what if. Thanks Beta-Debbie! Oh yeah, these characters aren't mine and neither are the AS lines I borrowed. Don't sue me.